Tacoma Quirk: The most famous Tacoman no one knows

  • MAP. George Francis Train coined the phrase “City of Destiny” as well as took a noted trip around the world that started and ended in Tacoma. (Photo by Steve Dunkelberger)

George Francis Train isn’t a household name around the City of Destiny the way Fawcett or Carr or Sprague are. But he should be. He coined the phrase, after all. But he also did much more.

Train was a transportation-minded businessman with a flair for the dramatic. He was part of the group that organized business interests in backing the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Train made a trip around the globe in 1870, which was covered by many newspapers and provided writer Jules Verne with some travel fodder for “Around the World in Eighty Days.” Then Train did it again, and again. The last time, Train’s trip started and ended in Tacoma.

He was a celebrity of his day, having run as a third-party candidate for the White House and for a very public trial involving his questionable mental state the following year. He had, after all, sought the post of Dictator of the United States and charged admission to his campaign rallies to fund his travels.

But no one in Tacoma cared about that on March 18, 1890, when Train boarded a ship bound for Japan for his next trip around the world. He would return 67 days and 13 hours later to a crowd of well wishers.

A small plaque along the 900 block of Broadway marks the story that few people know of a man who quite literally put the City of Destiny on the map.


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